News Release

More years of obesity means higher risk of disease, study finds

Peer-Reviewed Publication


A greater obesity duration is associated with worse values for all cardiometabolic disease factors, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Tom Norris of Loughborough University, UK, and colleagues.

People with obesity do not all share the same risk for the development of cardiometabolic disease risk factors. The duration a person has spent with obesity over their lifetime has been hypothesized to affect this variation. In the new study, researchers used data from three British birth cohort studies that collected information on body mass index from age 10 to 40 as well as cardiometabolic disease risk factors--blood pressure, cholesterol and glycated hemoglobin (blood sugar) measurements--in 20,746 participants.

More years of obesity was associated with worse values for all measured cardiometabolic risk factors. The association was particularly strong for glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c; those with less than five years of obesity had a 5% higher HbA1c (95%Confidence Interval 4-6) compared to people with no years of obesity, while those with 20 to 30 years of obesity had a 20% higher HbA1c (95%CI 17-23) compared to people with no obesity. Importantly, this increased risk persisted when adjustment was made for a robust measure of life course obesity severity. Other measures of cardiometabolic disease risk (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, high density-lipoprotein cholesterol) were also associated with obesity duration, though these were largely attenuated when adjusting for obesity severity.

"Our findings suggest that health policy recommendations aimed at preventing early obesity onset, and therefore reducing lifetime exposure, may help reduce risk of diabetes, independently of obesity severity," the authors say.


Research Article

Peer reviewed; Observational study; Humans

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper:

Funding: WJ is supported by a UK Medical Research Council (MRC) New Investigator Research Grant (MR/P023347/1) ( WJ acknowledges support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, which is a partnership between University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Loughborough University, and the University of Leicester. DB is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number ES/M001660/1) ( and The Academy of Medical Sciences / Wellcome Trust ("Springboard Health of the Public in 2040" award: HOP001/1025) ( RH is Director of the CLOSER consortium which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (award reference: ES/K000357/1) ( TJC was supported by MRC research grant MR/R010692/1 ( GBP is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council ES/M001660/1 ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Norris T, Cole TJ, Bann D, Hamer M, Hardy R, Li L, et al. (2020) Duration of obesity exposure between ages 10 and 40 years and its relationship with cardiometabolic disease risk factors: A cohort study. PLoS Med 17(12): e1003387.

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